In a sombre turn of events, the family of Greig ‘Stodge’ Stoddart endured a harrowing three-week ordeal over the Christmas season after the angler went missing alongside his friend Ian McBurney at Gartmorn Dam, near Alloa, on December 24. While Mr. McBurney was discovered lifeless on Boxing Day, the search for Greig was marred by delays, prompting his family to take matters into their own hands.
The Stoddart family’s frustration with the inadequacy of resources in Police Scotland’s search effort led Greig’s cousin, Thomas Stoddart, to seek assistance from Beneath the Surface, a specialist search group. The turning point came when the volunteers employed a state-of-the-art piece of sonar equipment known as AquaEye, locating Greig’s body and his boat in just two hours on January 14.
Expressing the family’s anguish, Thomas Stoddart conveyed, “Enduring what we have should not be the experience of any family. The police acknowledged this during a meeting, but the insufficiency of their resources is unacceptable in 2024.”
The Stoddart family is now advocating for the AquaEye to be made accessible to other families facing similar tragedies. Thomas emphasized, “If we can ensure more of these kits in Scotland and the rest of the UK, then hopefully, no other family will have to endure what we did. It won’t bring people back, but it will hasten closure for families.”
The AquaEye, a handheld sonar device costing £6,000, played a pivotal role in the expedited recovery. Capable of scanning over 13,000 feet of water in just two minutes, the device distinguishes echoes corresponding to a human body while excluding other large items such as sunken trees.
Thomas Stoddart lauded the AquaEye’s efficiency, saying, “Finding Greig with this game-changing piece of equipment took merely two hours in the water. It’s a phenomenal piece of kit, and I witnessed first hand its effectiveness. It facilitated closure for us very, very quickly.”
He further highlighted the constraints of Police Scotland’s resources, stating, “The reality is that Police Scotland lacks the necessary resources. If we had access to the AquaEye, we could have retrieved Greig on Christmas Day.”
Greig Stoddart echoed the sentiment, underscoring the potential savings in time and money if law enforcement invested in such equipment. He disclosed that while the police eventually recovered Greig’s body, it was only after Beneath the Surface had located him.
The AquaEye’s success has garnered support beyond the Stoddart family, with Selina Stewart, the mother of Gary, a young man missing in the Beauly Firth since November 19, endorsing the call for broader access to the technology. Selina insisted, “The police should definitely have access to this piece of equipment.”
As families grappling with the anguish of missing loved ones rally for increased resources, the AquaEye emerges as a beacon of hope in expediting the recovery process and providing closure to those enduring the agony of uncertainty. The Stoddart family’s advocacy could pave the way for a transformative shift in search and rescue operations across the UK, sparing others from the prolonged heartache they endured.